Buro Backseat: Two of Singapore’s rising hip-hop stars, Fariz Jabba and Yung Raja perform their latest singles, Ape Sia and Mustafa

Prophets of the streets

Text: Tracy Phillips

Friends and label mates Fariz Jabba and Yung Raja talk friendship, growing up as minorities in Singapore and healthy competition in the latest Buro Backseat

It was a fateful audition for Ah Boys To Men 3 and bonding on set as cast newbies that forged Fariz Abdul Rashid and Rajid Ahamed's firm friendship but it's their incarnation as hip-hop artists, Fariz Jabba and Yung Raja and their take on bilingual rap that has seen their popularity soar. Racking up hundreds of thousands of views across their social channels, the M03 Records & Kartel Records signees are now both full-time solo artists, determined to elevate South East Asian hip-hop on their terms.

Fariz Jabba is the quadruple threat  starting out as a dancer and then branching out into acting, singing and rapping. With his cheeky sense of humour and rapport with his fanbase, Jabba could easily add comedy to his list of talents, but for now, that role is occupied by his old brother, comedian, Fukkah Fuzz, who has played a big part in shaping Jabba's image.

For Yung Raja, acting was the initial dream. Hoping to one day make it in Hollywood, he entered the media industry in his early teens starring in TV shows and commercials. Today, the personal identity, audience connection and immediacy of rap has given him a newfound perspective on how best to reach his audience. As a first generation Singaporean of Indian heritage, Raja is using his lyrical flow and fluency in Tamil and English to shine a spotlight on his own culture.      

Remixing worldwide chart toppers with a local slant has been the duo's quick-fire road to fandom with takes on tracks like 'Gucci Gang' being reiterated as 'Kunci Gang' (kunci is the Malay word for keys) by Jabba and 'Poori Gang' (the deep-fried Indian bread) by Raja, catching the attention of regional hip-hop fans, particularly in Malaysia. Their audience has only grown since appearing on Malaysian hip-hop veteran, Joe Flizzow's YouTube series, 16 Baris, who incidentally served as their shared mentor for the recent Shine Festival Mentorship programme that both artists were a part of.

While we're excited to hear their fresh take on social commentary and in the languages and slang that make it so relevant to our city and region, it's Jabba and Raja's sincerity and enthusiasm that has us rooting for them. They have all of that hip-hop swag that we identify with the genre, but with an added sense of purpose and authenticity, a desire to do right by the new young Jabba's and Raja's of the world. Here's hoping that they get to achieve global recognition while staying true to their craft, giving an insight into our multi-cultural and nuanced identity in the process. 

Special thanks to Audi for the use of their Audi Q7. To see all the other Buro Backseat videos, click here.